Wandering around Florida: Tampa to Gainesville

I might have mentioned this briefly in one of my previous posts, but will go into a little more detail. My YPN friend, Marybeth, invited me to this meetup back in January and I signed up for the hiking event. This was a group that is part of the Florida Trail Foundation. This event is an old tradition when a hiker/camper was making soup and only had stones for flavoring. Another person came up to him and asked why just the stones, and the camper said that was all he had for the soup. Then the other hiker gave him some vegetables, and as time went by others were pitching in to make the soup. Turns out that this became a tradition and now the meetup group has been doing this for decades! You can tell by the cauldron they used for the soup. We were asked to bring something to put into the soup and there was a meat and vegetable option. I went on the short hike and when we came back to the picnic shelter, the soup was almost ready. There were a dozen or so side dishes and the food was delicious! After lunch, there was an auction of various items that were mostly camping related and I had a good time. The next day, we met for breakfast and then I headed up north toward home.

Gainesville, FL
I drove on HWY 301 most of the way and stopped for the night in Gainesville. One of the places I visited was the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville. Though it is winter, there were azaleas and camellias in bloom, but the gardens were mostly green. The gardens contain the largest bamboo collection in the country and has a modern visitor center that can host event venues and has a small gift shop.
There are several sections to walk around in including a children’s area with a walkway, pond, maze, and cute and quirky stone statuary. I enjoyed walking around the small ponds and waterfalls. The gardens are also home to giant lily pads, but there weren’t any at this time of year and everything grows and blooms more in the spring and summer seasons.

Florida Museum of Natural History and Butterfly Gardens
This museum is part of the University of Florida and was and a favorite so far. Giant shark jaws are encased in glass displays right off the entrance, showing a very impressive collections from millions of years ago to the present day Great White Shark. Glad I wasn’t around back then!
Part of the museum contains research labs and I was fascinated by the fish skeleton images that were on display. The story of how these were done was played on a video monitor and I had to read the whole story. The little fish skeletons were encased in tiny little jars. Amazing imagery!
5 sections housed lots of native American artifacts and history and I am profoundly amazed at our American history.
I spent a lot of time in the butterfly garden that was in an annex outside one of the labs. Fortunately for me, they were not moving around too much that gave me a great opportunity to wander around and wait for the sun to come out when they began to spread their wings.
A fantastic collection from all over the world was in glass cases mounted on the wall from floor to ceiling. This would be a repeat visit as well.

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